Your Diet Impacts Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis
People who want to reduce their risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis may want to adjust their food choices. Two new studies show that your diet impacts risk of rheumatoid arthritis, and the changes you should make may not be so dramatic.
At the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting in San Francisco, experts revealed their findings about the effect your food choices have on the risk of developing this often debilitating autoimmune condition. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect individuals from birth, although the majority of people with the disease are 30 years or older.
Currently, about 1.5 million people in the United States have rheumatoid arthritis, and it affects women about three times more than men. An estimated 300,000 children and teenagers have some form of juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
Diet and rheumatoid arthritis
Previous research has indicated that what you eat matters when it comes to rheumatoid arthritis. According to the investigators, past studies of the impact of diet on rheumatoid arthritis have not provided consistent information.
This time, the new studies have looked at overall dietary patterns, which “may be more predictive of disease risk than individual foods or nutrients,” according to one lead investigator, Bing Lu, MD, DrPH, assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
In one study, investigators determined that the typical Western diet, which is high in red and processed meats, fried foods, high-fat dairy, sugary foods, and refined grains, can increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis when compared with a diet that consists primarily of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, poultry, and legumes.
This study involved considering information from 93,859 women without rheumatoid arthritis who completed dietary questionnaires every four years between 1991 and 2011. Analysis of data collected from these women showed that those who followed a “Prudent” diet had less risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis than those who followed a Western diet, although having a higher body mass index was a factor in having the disease as well.
In the second study, the investigators found that individuals who followed the Dietary Guidelines for Americans had a reduced risk of developing the disease. Those guidelines include engaging in physical activity, consuming fewer calories, and making informed food decisions.
More specifically, data from the Nurses’ Health Study II and food frequency questionnaires were used to identify the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis when following the Dietary Guidelines. The experts determined that those who followed the Dietary Guidelines for Americans had a 33 percent reduced risk of developing this form of arthritis.
One interesting observation made by the investigators was that the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis was greater among individuals who were seronegative for rheumatoid arthritis (did not have anti-cyclic citrullinated peptides or rheumatoid factor present in their blood work) than those who were seropositive.
The bottom line of both studies was that a healthy diet--which includes foods that have been recommended by experts for years--may prevent the development of rheumatoid arthritis. This finding should be of special interest to anyone who has risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis (e.g., a family history of the disease or other autoimmune diseases) or those who may be displaying symptoms of the disease already.
American College of Rheumatology (ACR). "Diet may determine your risk for rheumatoid arthritis." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 November 2015.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases